Lidl revving up to sell cars online

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The German discount supermarket is trying what others have tried, and failed, to do before: get people to buy their new wheels online.

Berlin – Lidl, the German discount supermarket best known for its low-priced groceries and household goods, forayed into new territory last week as the chain began selling cars online.

Spokeswoman Petra Trabert said the Lidl supermarket chain's online shopping portal will offer the Opel Corsa for just under 11,000 euros (14,000 dollars) and the Volkswagen Cross Polo for 14,000 euros, (17,700 dollars) – a discount of about 25 percent off the suggested retail price.

Lidl is launching the sales together with German car distributor ATG-Automobile GmbH.

"Lidl and ATG-Automobile GmbH work with the same target audience," Trabert said. "We are geared toward the customer who seeks quality in conjunction with a favourable price."

Germany's economy is in recession and unemployment is at 8.3 percent, but Lidl believes it can turn a profit in an industry that is bucking the economic downturn. New car sales were up 21 percent in February year-on-year, largely because of a 50 billion euros (67 billion dollars) government stimulus plan that pays citizens 2,500 euros (3,250 dollars) to replace cars at least nine years old with new ones.

But Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, the director of the Centre for Automotive Research in Gelsenkirchen, said previous efforts to sell cars online and through supermarkets have faltered.

"I think it will be very difficult for Lidl," Dudenhoeffer said. "People don't want to buy high-value products from a discount grocery store."

Dudenhoeffer said that Quelle, a German online marketplace, tried to sell cars online about five years ago.

"It didn't work, even though their site was visited fairly heavily," Dudenhoeffer said. Germans might be unwilling to forgo haggling over the price of a car, he added.

Said Dudenhoeffer: "Germans like to go to the dealership."

Mary Lane/AP/Expatica

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